That time Barbara Lee and Paul Ryan tussled over race

Rep. Barbara Lee and new Republican House
Speaker Paul Ryan have history.

CONGRESS | DISTRICT 13 | “I congratulate Paul Ryan on his election as Speaker of the House today,” East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee said Thursday of the new Republican House leader.

In the statement, Lee encouraged Ryan to act against an Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), in Iraq and Afghanistan, currently on the speaker’s desk. Lee famously voted against the first AUMF in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.

But, while she was gracious in her congratulation of Ryan to succeed Rep. John Boehner, the two have politically tussled in the past. In March 2014, Lee seized upon comments made by Ryan asserting absent black fathers were to blame for some “inner city” ills.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular,” Ryan said at the time, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Lee shot back that Ryan’s comments about poverty were a “thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.'”

Ryan reacted incredulously to Lee’s comments. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race,” said Ryan. “It never even occurred to me.”

Nevertheless, history aside, few can imagine Lee–one of the most progressive members of Congress–and Ryan, a devout fiscal conservative, will ever see eye-to-eye.

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